by Fran Golden
Every year around this time, cruise lines reposition some of their ships from the sunny Caribbean to the historic shores of Europe. After exploring destinations such as the Greek Isles, western Mediterranean and the Baltics, the ships return to the Caribbean in the fall. These transatlantic repositioning cruises can be great deals.
In mid-April, for instance, last-minute fares were running as low as $399 for a sailing on the Norwegian Star from Tampa to Copenhagen – cheaper than the cost of most one-way airfares.
There is a catch: You need to fly one-way; these cruises are about getting ships from one market to another market, not about taking you on a round-trip itinerary. Plus these cruises involve about two weeks of travel – much of it without seeing any dry land.
On the plus side, you visit two continents and stop by some fascinating ports of call, traveling at a wonderfully relaxed pace. Plus, this year some of the newest ships will be making their way across the Atlantic, meaning you get a preview before they hit North American shores.
Repositioning cruises are increasingly popular, and it’s best to book well in advance if you want a good choice of cabins and itineraries. Last-minute fares are a steal, but finding a decent last-minute airfare may not be quite as easy.
Here are some of the best deals on the books.
Navigator of the Seas: Set sail from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton, UK on a 13-day cruise on this Royal Caribbean ship and you can tackle the rock-climbing wall during your time at sea. Port calls get you to Portugal (Ponta Delgada and Lisbon), Spain (Vigo) and France (Le Havre). Fares for the May 8 cruise from $584.
Pacific Princess: This unusual “Fire and Ice” itinerary takes you from New York to Dover, UK. The 15-day cruise, embarking on May 31, visits Halifax, three ports in Iceland (including Reykjavik) and Kirkwall and Dundee, Scotland. Fares from $1,699.
Disney Magic. Spend quality time this fall with Mickey and friends as you cruise from Barcelona to New York, along the way visiting Portuguese Ponta Delgada and Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The fun starts September 17, fares for the 11-day cruise from $1,430.
Royal Princess. Get a deal on one of Princess Cruises’ newest ships as you set sail from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Fort Lauderdale, embarking October 8. The 14-day sailing gets you to Livorno (for Florence and Pisa), Toulon (France), Barcelona and Ponta Delgada, with 10 full days at sea. Fares from $1,099.
Brilliance of the Seas. Stop by Malaga, Spain and Gibraltar en-route from Barcelona to Tampa. You also spend a day in San Juan, but most of this 14-day cruise, embarking October 17, is about being at sea. Fares from $623.
Carnival Vista. Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship has the first IMAX Theatre at sea, an extravagant ropes course and a real, beer-making brewery. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy it all as you cruise from Barcelona to New York on a 13-day transatlantic sailing embarking October 21. Port calls are at Gibraltar, Ponte Delgada and Hamilton, Bermuda; fares from $889.
Harmony of the Seas. Cruise across the Atlantic on the largest ship in the world and have 10 full days to explore the seven onboard neighborhoods (including a Central Park with real plants and trees) and have a robot bartender fix you a drink. The 13-day sailing from Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale visits two Spanish ports, Palma de Mallorca and Malaga, and embarks on October 23; fares from $1,701.
Koningsdam. Check out Holland America Line’s newest ship on a 16-day sailing from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Fort Lauderdale, embarking October 24. You can listen to Lincoln Center chamber music and singing piano players doing Billboard chart-toppers while at sea, with time too to explore five Spanish ports and the Portuguese island of Madeira; fares from $1,399.